And God spoke…

This We Believe: My Spiritual Journey….God’s Story, Jesus’ Story, Our Story

  • Mark 4:1-9 Jesus’ parable of the Sower
  • Numbers 27:1-11 The Daughters of Zelophehad

Biblical Story to the Children: Mark 4:1-9 – Parable of the Sower

Jesus began to teach beside the sea.
Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there,
      while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.
Jesus taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:


A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed,
      some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
      Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil,
            and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil.
            And when the sun rose, it was scorched;
           and since it had no root, it withered away.

     Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it,
          and it yielded no grain.
     Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and
         increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
And Jesus said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen! ”

Tell Story

Planter with potting soil….
Seeds scattered on path……cardboard……Will seeds grow on this cardboard?
Seeds scattered on rocky ground……..Will seeds grow in these rocks?
Seeds scattered among thorns…thorns…..Will seeds grow and produce among thorns?
Seeds scattered in good soil….in planter….Will seeds grow in this soil?

The sower, the seeds, and the soils are the ingredients of this parable story. But another very important part of Jesus’ story is the first and last word that Jesus said in the story. Do you know what word Jesus said first before he told the story and then repeated at the end of the story? Shall we ask the adults? Jesus told us to “Listen!” and then told the parable and then repeated what he wanted us to do by telling us again, “Whoever has ears to hear, listen!”

Biblical Story with Adults: Numbers 27:1-11 — Intro to the Story

“Then the daughters of Zelophehad came forward…..”

Our biblical story begins with this startling act of five women – the daughters of Zelophehad. Before we listen with the ears of our hearts to this amazing biblical story, let’s let our hearts be prepared to truly listen to the story in two ways. First let’s step back to get a bigger picture of the biblical scene. Second, will be a contemplative preparation so that we see with the eyes and hear with the ears of our heart.

First, setting the stage for the bigger picture will enlighten our hearing and seeing the story. When we truly hear a biblical story we know that there is always a story context. The beginning of the larger story is always more than the beginning of the particular story.

In worship this morning we hear the story together meaning that you are needed for us to actively and accurately hear it together. So let me ask you some questions. This is not a Bible quiz or competition but communal story-listening and learning. Our culturally formed competitive drive and our religiously formed tendency to begin with morality to declare what is right and wrong often hinder our hearing God’s Living Word. Scripture is first story and second mystery before we can arrive at morality. Theologian Robert Jenson argues that in the Western world has “lost its story” — lost a sense of the world’s “narratable reality,” grounded in origin, purpose, and destiny and, therefore, has lost hope (Ken Myer, MHA letter, July 07, p. 2). The biblical story grounds us in a narrative reality.

The startling story of the daughters of Zelophehad comes from the Book of Numbers.
     When was the last time that you read anything in the Book of Numbers?
     Where do we find the Book of Numbers? 4 th of the 5 books of the Pentatuech!
     What do you know about the Book of Numbers ?
     When was the last time you heard a sermon from the Book of Numbers ?
     What do you know about these daughters of Zelophehad?

Numbers tells the story of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. It includes stories of Korah’s rebellion (ch. 16), Balaam’s talking donkey (Ch. 22), and camping at the edge of Canaan waiting to enter the Promised Land. A best known story is that Moses sent a spy from each of the 12 tribes of Israel into Canaan to scout out the land. They came back with a bunch of grapes so big that 2 men carried it on a pole and reported a land flowing with milk and honey but inhabited by “giants” so big we seemed like grasshoppers (ch. 13).

Chapters 1-10 continues the story of Israel at Mount Sinai;
Chapters 11-21 follows Israel on the wilderness journey;
Chapters 22-36 brings Israel to the edge of the Promised Land on the Plains of Moab.

Along the way the children of Israel regularly complain to God and Moses about one thing or another.

The Book of Numbers gets its name from a listing of the census – actually two census listings. The first chapter is a census taken at Mount Sinai naming the Exodus generation — that is all the Israelites who came out of Egypt. This generation fails to be faithful to God so often that they all die in the wilderness and none of them enter the Promised Land. Listen to the first two verses of Numbers [read 1:1-2a].

In chapter 26 another census is listed of the second generation of the Israelites born in the wilderness and who enter the Promised Land. Listen to the first two verses of this chapter [26:1-2]. If we read through this whole census we would find a startling, puzzling and unique list of names. Listen to these names [Read 26:33-34]. That may not seem important or unusual to us today UNTIL we hear this story which immediately follows the census of a new generation preparing to enter the Promised Land.

Tell Numbers 27:1-11 – Contemplative prep: open mind/heart/no Bibles & listen!

Then the daughters of Zelophehad came forward.
Zelophehad was son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir
son of Manasseh son of Joseph, a member of the Manassite clans. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, & Tirzah.

The daughters stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders,
and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting,
and they said, ‘Our father died in the wilderness;
he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves
together against the Lord in the company of Korah,
but died for his own sin; and he had no sons.

Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.’
Moses brought their case before God.
And God spoke to Moses, saying:
The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying;
you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their
father’s brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them.
You shall also say to the Israelites,
‘If a man dies, and has no son,
then you shall pass his inheritance on to his daughter.
If he has no daughter,
then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.
If he has no brothers,
then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. And if his father has no brothers,
then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of
his clan, and he shall possess it.
It shall be for the Israelites a statute and ordinance, as God
commanded Moses.’

Questions – Who, What, Where, When:

Who appears in the story? 5 daus…Moses/priest/leaders/people…God
Where does it take place? Entrance to Tabernacle….in the wilderness…
Place to meet God and hear God’s revelation…
When does it take place? Before entering Canaan…Promised Land
What happens in the story? Daus ask for father’s inheritance/family name|
What is the inheritance? Land….in the Promised Land

Tell the Story with help from hearers

5 women as daughters of Z…..Moses/Eliazer/leaders…..congregation……
Voice of God (Andy with mic and script)
We have listened and lived this story together
What speaks to you in this story of the daughters of Z?
What questions does it raise?
Did God grant the daughters request?

What do we hear in the story for our lives and God’s people today?

This story comes alive in Richmond, VA, in an ecumenical ministry called The Daughters of Zelophehad (DOZ) which provides transitional housing for homeless women. DOZ also provides spiritual support and job and life skills training for women who are helped to graduate from the Daughters of Z housing program, that is from poverty to empowerment, while they continue on with the relationships and spiritual support they have gained at the Daughters of Zelophehad which provides a home, a family, a faith, a relationship with God, and a future for mothers and their children. That is the meaning of this story of Zelophehad’s daring daughters. (DOZ website!dozmain.htm )


God of light and life and love, thank you for these five bold faithful women – Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. Make us bold with them and empower us to hear your fresh living word seeking your justice and the peace of Christ today. AMEN